Apple Updates Screen Time With Contact Parental Controls

iOS releases a major update for their parental control system, Screen Time. You can now control who your children can contact and who can contact them! Find out how.

Today Apple released an update to iOS labeled 13.3. Included in the update is a long-awaited addition to their Screen Time parental controls. Parents have been really wanting to be able to control who is allowed to contact their children and when. With the new release, parent’s prayers have been answered.

The new feature is called Communication Limits, and allows parents to:

  • Manage your children’s contacts with full control over the list that only you can edit. 
  • During Allowed Screen Time, choose to allow “everyone” or “contacts only” to contact your children, giving you the option to prevent unknown contacts from reaching them.
  • During Downtime or after app limits have expired, choose to further limit who your children can communicate with using the “specified contacts” option. 

These limits can be set for the Phone, FaceTime, Messages and iCloud contacts. With these new controls, I am getting closer to being able to recommend an iPhone for kids, but the operating system and Screen Time, in particular, is not quite there yet.

While the Screen Time parental controls in iOS do offer the ability to lock down specific apps completely or even during certain times, it still does not have the ability to report on any issues encountered inside any of the apps. You would need to supplement the Screen Time parental controls with a monitor like Bark.

There have also been MANY reports lately about Screen Time itself being very unstable. Many parents are finding that it is turning itself off on their children’s devices or just not reporting properly altogether. Hopefully, iOS 13.3 includes some serious bug fixes for the platform!

How to Enable Communication Limits in iOS Screen Time

  1. In order to turn on the setting, both phones (yours and your child’s device or devices) need to be updated to iOS 13.3.
  2. Once they are both updated, tap on Settings and then scroll down to Screen Time on the parent’s phone.
  3. Scroll down and tap the child you want to control
  4. Tap on “Communication Limits”
  5. Pick your settings!

You can even add contacts directly to your child’s device from this area!

I am glad tech companies are finally taking children’s safety and security seriously. This is a big problem for parents, and no one is making it really easy to manage yet. Last week Instagram announced some great new features to help protect our kids, and now these updates from Apple are really helping move the cause forward.

I would really like to see Apple open up to allow more 3rd party parental control access to at least do the things that Screen Time can’t yet. Once the parental controls are completely robust, then I would be fine with locking the operating system up a bit more, but while the solution you have is still lacking, please let parents have the kind of control they want.

I hope we continue to see these improvements from all of the major tech companies down the road (I’m looking at you Snapchat). They honestly can’t come fast enough.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using the links.



About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website

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